Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Monday, June 09, 2008

Interview question – what do you see as the main challenges facing us with climate change?

It has become increasingly fashionable in interviews to ask a question based on current political and economic issues and to see how well an interviewee handles them. Something like climate change is a massive area and usually the interviewee will be thinking in their mind, “Oh my goodness, what an earth am I going to say”.

This is where preparation for interviews comes in very handy.

On climate change, you may hold very strong opinions which could include dismissing the theory of climate change as exactly that, something with no evidence. It could also be that you are a passionate environmentalist and regularly activating with Greenpeace at weekends, blocking oil pipes, etcetera. It may also be that you hold no opinion at all on the matter, and simply do not ever think about it very much.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, you must come up with a structured answer. Perhaps the best way to consider it would be to think about the positives and negatives and try and relate it as much as possible to the legal profession (if, of course, you are reading this as a lawyer).

If you do not think about your answer before you give it, it may come across as slightly waffly and incoherent, which is often a difficulty an interviewer has when trying to listen to an answer with such potential breadth.

So for example, with climate change, think about the question you were asked, which was what will be the impact of climate change, so start of by saying what you believe the impact will be, and what you have read on the subject that justifies your opinion on it, and then consider the second part of the question to follow it up. If you have anything else to say on a personal opinion, put this in at the end.

The reason you are being asked your question, is to see how well you can marshal your thoughts and present something as complex as climate change to someone in a very short space of time. Do not be surprised if the interviewer holds his hand up half way through your answer and says thank you, as it may be that he has heard enough of your answer to decide how well you have dealt with this. Do not expect the person interviewing you to actually be listening to your response, as they may simply be assessing how well you are answering the question and your thoughts on it. Try not to give too much passion in any answer on such subjects as this as if you do you may get picked up on it and the interviewer may remember you at the end, “oh, that was the bloke who blocks up oil pipes at the weekend with Green Peace”.

Another thing is that even if you hold strong environmental views, you do not know which of the oil companies and like, the firm who are interviewing you act for on a regular basis. It would be fatal to be discussing Greenpeace for any length of time.

I do recall going for an interview at Eversheds many years ago, I made a comment in passing, something about Greenpeace, ears pricking up and pulling me back on it and asking me further questions about my involvement with them. It obviously would not be an issue for most firms as everyone is entitled to opinions, but I suspect that if you were regularly out campaigning that quite a lot of firms would be slightly concerned about your actions and how they would impact on the firm if you were ever involved in any direct action and got arrested.

In summary, like any other question on a similar topic, you must marshal your thoughts, present a coherent answer, try not to waffle and be able to wrap things up when you get to the end of your answer with some sort of brief summary to outline what you’ve just said. Do not expect anyone to be listening to what you are saying, as if they have asked the question of ten interviewees before you, they will not be very interested in your answer.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment (http://www.ten-percent.co.uk/). He regularly writes and commentates on issues affecting the legal profession and gives free careers advice via the website. You can also email us at cv@ten-percent.co.uk

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